For a piece so practical and unassuming, the parka has spent an impressive amount of time at the very pinnacle of cool. Strictly speaking just a knee-length coat with a hood and padding, as a key item for SS17 it’s an unusual choice. But underestimate the parka at your peril – here’s all you need to know about this sound investment.
Words by Hollie MoatSHOP NOW
The word ‘parka’ comes from the Nenets language (native to remote northern Russian islands) and simply means ‘animal skin’. It first entered the English language in 1625, but you have to fast forward to the 20th century to get to the inception of the ‘fishtail parka’ – the definitive dark green design we recognise today. This was developed in the US for military use, keeping soldiers warm in -50°C weather. Made from a silk-nylon outer and a wool-blanket padding, it was soon rolled out for civilian use, becoming a winter hit.
Style significance came in the early-mid sixties, when it was adopted as the coat of choice by the fashion-obsessed mods, who rode their Vespas wearing a classic fishtail parka over their androgynous trousers and flats, with the truly dedicated customising the back with a band logo or the signature mod emblem, the Air Force roundel. After a brief Quadrophenia-fuelled revival in 1979, the parka’s next starring role on the world stage came via nineties Britpop, with the biggest British bands sporting the piece over their Fred Perry polos and Adidas Gazelles. Parkas haven’t left the forefront of fashion since.
Granted, the supermodel is the go-to girl for many a look, but her patronage of the parka has proven it can stylishly hold its own year after year. At the height of Cool Britannia, La Moss was the ultimate indie chick in a parka, bare legs and boots. More recently, she proved it could also be elegant – pairing with an all-black ensemble and chic up-do.
Style tip: Make your parka the main feature of your outfit, and wear with classic but well-cut wardrobe staples.
Providing the perfect contrast to the romantic trends dominating the runways elsewhere, this season’s parkas come in simple but striking colourways and decisive silhouettes that exhibit the oh-so-now utility mood. Wear over jeans and shirts or flouncy dresses as the fancy takes you!
Head to: Helmut Lang, Jil Sander, Mr and Mrs Italy.
Look, Listen, Learn
The Parka In Pop Culture
Watch: Quadrophenia – a love letter to mod style – and the 2010 adaptation of Brighton Rock, which transports Graham Greene’s classic novel to the era of mods vs rockers.
Listen: Before the movie came The Who’s seminal album, Quadrophenia. Also try the self-titled debut LP from mod band the Small Faces and Oasis’s Definitely Maybe.
Read: MOD: From Bebop to Britpop, Britain’s Biggest Youth Movement by Richard Weight – pretty much covers all your bases.